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EES3001 Professional Scientific Literacy

This guide provides resources to help you with your rapid review assignment

Keywords Matter

Ask yourself three questions:

  1. What is my topic?
  2. What are the key aspects of this topic?
  3. What are alternate keywords for each aspect?

Brainstorm keywords to use in your search. Pick words that represent each key aspect of your topic (see below for an example).

This process can be challenging. The same idea can be expressed in many ways. To ensure the best results when searching, brainstorm several keywords whenever possible.

Keyword Searching Tips

Keyword searching is essentially taking your best guess at the terms which will appear in articles that are about your topic.  This can be a very effective way of searching.  However, you may get a number of irrelevant results because the keywords you chose may appear in irrelevant articles.  You also never know if you've found all the article on your topic. 

Tip: The next time you're using a library catalogue/database or looking at a book or article, take note of the author defined keywords or keywords and subject headings used then try using those terms in your next search.

Build Your Search Using Boolean Logic

Boolean logic is the fancy language databases use to search. Boolean operators connect your keywords together.

The three basic boolean operators are: AND, OR, and NOT. 

Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT

*Created by McMaster Libraries

Boolean Modifiers "", *, ()

Troubleshooting Your Search

  1. Check your spelling: Google your keywords to make sure you spelled them correctly.  Your search will not work if your keywords aren't spelled properly.
  2. Too many results?  Add keywords to focus your search results. Check your course notes or look at your current search results for more ideas on focusing your search.
  3. Too few results?  Take keywords away to broaden your search.
  4. Try descriptors or subject headings:  Using the database's own vocabulary (descriptors or subject headings) can often vastly improve your search.  Ask your librarian for assistance if needed.